In May, José and I put our facilitation training into practice by hosting our own workshop at uni. The workshop fits into our ‘kangaroo project’, a collaboration with Parks Victoria to develop an adaptive management program for kangaroo control at Wyperfeld National Park. Kangaroo control is undertaken with the purpose of reducing grazing pressure and enhancing the regeneration of pine-buloke woodland. Our task is to build a model and help frame future management plans such that kangaroo management is explicitly linked to vegetation objectives and condition.
Our workshop gathered experts from the Mallee Parks, PV’s city office, academia and private practice to discuss how vegetation could be monitored and evaluated for both short- and long-term purposes. In the short term, we want the capacity to trigger actions that effectively protect regeneration. In the long term, we want to track progress in restoring the woodland and have a clear picture of the role of kangaroo management in that restoration. Our participants tackled these issues with gusto, bringing forth their many years’ experience in observing, researching and/or managing this system.
José and I called on our training to plan a purposeful workshop and arrange activities that we hoped would engage and focus our participants. Some of these plans were highly successful, others were overlooked in the energy of the moment and a few fizzled. When our framing of an issue didn’t capture their perspective, our participants helped with a redefinition. We witnessed some terrific moments of self-organisation, with individuals reflecting and summarising what they’d heard from others, once or twice even pulling the group through a ‘groan zone‘ with little intervention from us facilitators.
That said, it was mighty challenging to draw on the facilitation techniques I’d learned while on my feet, in front of an (occasionally inattentive) audience. It helped enormously that I embarked on this workshop in partnership with José, so that leading and speaking could be alternated with reflecting and strategising. Several PV and university colleagues helped to form links and re-establish focus, while local students Hannah and Stefano assisted with note-taking and odd jobs (including the above photography!). Preparation and a post mortem with the facilitation discussion group helped us recognise challenges, develop strategies and identify paths for future improvement. This support network ensured that the first workshop José and I facilitated was robust in the face of our inexperience, and we’ll gain a little more foresight and confidence each time we take on this role.